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Pure Appl. Chem., 2013, Vol. 85, No. 5, pp. 903-919

Published online 2013-04-29

New ligand platforms featuring boron-rich clusters as organomimetic substituents*

Alexander M. Spokoyny

Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Abstract: 200 years of research with carbon-rich molecules have shaped the development of modern chemistry. Research pertaining to the chemistry of boron-rich species has historically trailed behind its more distinguished neighbor (carbon) in the periodic table. Notably, a potentially rich and, in many cases, unmatched field of coordination chemistry using boron-rich clusters remains fundamentally underdeveloped. Our work has been devoted to examining several basic concepts related to the functionalization of icosahedral boron-rich clusters and their use as ligands, aimed at designing fundamentally new hybrid molecular motifs and materials. Particularly interesting are icosahedral carboranes, which can be regarded as 3D analogs of benzene. These species comprise a class of boron-rich clusters that were discovered in the 1950s during the “space race” while researchers were developing energetic materials for rocket fuels. Ultimately, the unique chemical and physical properties of carborane species, such as rigidity, indefinite stability to air and moisture, and 3D aromaticity, may allow one to access a set of properties not normally available in carbon-based chemistry. While technically these species are considered as inorganic clusters, the chemical properties they possess make these boron-rich species suitable for replacing and/or altering structural and functional features of the organic and organometallic molecules—a phenomenon best described as “organomimetic”. Aside from purely fundamental features associated with the organomimetic chemistry of icosahedral carboranes, their use can also provide new avenues in the development of systems relevant to solving current problems associated with energy production, storage, and conversion.
*Pure Appl. Chem. 85, 883-956 (2013). A collection of invited, peer-reviewed articles by the winners of the 2012 IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists.